Some Stuff About User Experience, eCommerce, Social Media & etc.

Marketing: Don’t be a Hater

Since starting at Adaptive Path I’ve discovered a few words that cause unexpected reactions in people from nervous tics to outright diatribes.

Included on this list are “branding,” “advertising,” and “marketing.” This was a bit of a shock for me having come from the world of advertising and graphic design. From what I can tell, the reactions are based on the notion that advertising and marketing are manipulative. And the belief that UX designers create useful services while advertisers use people.

I would like to challenge this perspective and point out some things I have learned in the world of advertising and marketing that have made me a better UX designer.

Make it Fun
More then anything, my experience at one of the biggest ad agencies in San Francisco taught me how to humanize my design. Straight out of design school my work was well defended, well executed, and….cold. I went straight into an agency where humor was king. Initially this was not an easy transition because, let’s face it, designers (myself included) don’t always have a sense of humor about their work. But the ability to draw on humor and other humanizing elements became an invaluable addition to my skill set. In doing so, I made my design accessible to a broader audience. My non-designer friends, who looked at me askance when I lectured them on flows and prototypes, could now share the experience of laughing at a funny campaign. They got it.

As UX designers we sometimes get caught up in the functionality of an experience and forget to also make it fun, delightful, provocative and ultimately memorable. By tapping into emotions (the way advertisers often do), we make experiences even more powerful.

I was designing cross-channel experiences before I’d ever heard the term “cross-channel.” When creating a brand system a designer has to consider how the visual language works in web, outdoor, interactive, print, and retail environments. A logo needs to function on a business card, a billboard, and at 72dpi. This kind of systems-level thinking has served me well in UX design. When creating a website I’m already thinking about how it relates to the retail experience. Recently, when doing research for a financial services client, we found that customers’ loyalty to their bank had as much to do with the free coffee in the branch on Saturday mornings as how easy it was to set up bill-pay on the website.

“Findability Trumps Usability”
In this quote Peter Morville was referring to search engine optimization and making your site findable to the people who might find it useful. But it’s also relevant to marketing. We can create the most compelling experience EVER but if no one knows about it does it matter? It’s like the tree falling in the forest…If a UX designer creates a service but no one markets it does it exist? On another research project we found that people absolutely loved our client’s competitor because of their TV ads and branding. Were these people manipulated? Maybe. But the ads seemed to create a level of trust and loyalty that the product alone did not. And for this reason customers were willing to sign up for more services that the company offered.

NorCal vs SoCal
The UX versus advertising face-off sort of reminds me of the Northern versus Southern California feud. My advertising friends just nodded and said “cool” when I told them I was working for a UX company, similar to how my LA friends reacted to my move to SF. The opposite wasn’t quite so true. My UX colleagues tend to shake their head in sympathy when I say that I worked in advertising and offer a heartfelt “I’m sorry.” And really, SF-ers, living in LA wasn’t that bad either.

We both live in California. Just like UX designers can complain about advertisers only wanting to sell products, but we are kidding ourselves if we think that in the end we aren’t often doing the same thing.

In Practice
There is no doubt that the UX attitude towards marketing is shifting. According to an article last week in UX Magazine, leaders in the field do not think marketing is the evil empire. So let’s practice what we preach.

Let’s consider branding an essential part of service design solutions. How does branding help unify cross-channel experiences? How can it make services more enjoyable, memorable, and likely to be used again? Let’s acknowledge the value that marketing brings to the UX conversation by including people from marketing departments in our client stakeholder interviews. Ultimately they will be telling the world about the products and services we create. Overall, we should be willing to “share the sandbox” as Samantha Starmer, a senior manager of user experience and information management at REI, encourages in her recent article.  And we should always laugh at ourselves when people point out just how ridiculous the marketing-UX dichotomy is.

via: http://www.adaptivepath.com/

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